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Saturday, December 9, 2017

Rangers


I was behind a car with an interesting logo that took me a couple of stop signs to make out. It was in honor of, a memorial to a Ranger, dead in the line of duty. I glanced down and saw the license plate announced a Gold Star family. I wished them peace.

There always have been rangers, in the definition as the men ahead, finding the way, forestalling trouble, mediating. I realized that definition when I was eight or nine, and allowed into the “adult” section of our public library. Having no idea how to assimilate all those books, I decided it best to start at A and read them all.

In short order I reached Altscheler and his series on the Ohio and Kentucky frontiers. Astounding to learn Ohio was wooded across, buffalo (bison) were here when the French priests came to proselytize the natives as long ago as the sixteenth century. I devoured every book I could find, and followed the exploits of mostly white men conquering the country. Jim Bridger, a hero, John Fremont not so much. Probably because Fremont was a politician, too.

The flip side of settlement didn’t escape me. I especially followed the history of natives in my state. Ohio has fascinating local history. The Delaware tribe was a loose association of smaller tribes that intermingled freely. One young man fell out with his clan and joined another. He rose to be that clan’s chief, but always was the newcomer, and Ohio has a town named for him, Newcomerstown.

The history of our natives, people too, was heart wrenching. Those of us past middle age know the story of the Trail of Tears or the Battle of Broken Knee, which was the same kind of massacre as the shooting at the Florida night club, but not preserved in history as a terror attack by our government.

I was much longer understanding what the movement of peoples did to the land. The prairie sod had to be broken, a job unlike tilling most anywhere east of the Mississippi. The “breaking plow” broke the farmers who set out to claim the west. That migration was relentless. One of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books dealt specifically with Pa, realizing he’d homesteaded in a reservation portion of Nebraska, and moving the family back to Minnesota.

The damage to the land didn’t occur to me until junior high school, when we learned about contour plowing, to conserve lands from wind and rain. I think that was the aha moment that set me rethinking what I knew. So, plowing caused the dust bowl!

If I had it to do over, my ideal life would be anthropology, archeology, history, ruminating over what I know. Then I had a family to care for, and so I’ve come out the other end, older, probably wiser. I think back on that first book, reading about the fictional ranger, Henry Ware, and his exploits in my part of this country. A simple little book, but it set my pattern of reading all these years.

I wondered how long “Rangers” have been a branch of our army, and looked it up. Wickipedia says the United States Army Rangers were established in 1943 (the year I was born), and are headquartered out of Fort Benning, Georgia, home of my dad’s army career. But, their history predates the Revolutionary War. There is mention of Army Rangers as early as the French and Indian Wars (another fascinating chapter of our history.)

The first name of the young man on the memorial logo was Benjamin. I wish his family peace.



My Uncle, Henry Rolf. One of the few World War II pictures I have. Uncle Hank was Transportation Corps, and moved supplies in convoys, over the mountains. I think he posed this picture for his family, back home. This was in France.

You know, I'm thinking this was still stateside. Those boots are too new.

23 comments:

  1. Love this post! You may want to read Seedtime on the Cumberland, by Harriette Simpson Arnow. It was published in 1960, and she was old enough when she wrote it to have memories handed down by her grandparents and great-grandparents that explain what life was like in Tennessee and Kentucky. She's actually a novelist (Hunter's Horn, The Dollmaker), but wrote this really fascinating cultural and historical non fiction book. It is rich with quirky details. She followed it up with another book called Flowering of the Cumberland, but I prefer Seedtime. Cheers.

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  2. Thanks; it's on my list. My dad's Irish family came into western PA through Cumberland, MD.

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  3. Great post, I too am fascinated by history. I am a member of the Cherokee tribe as is all of my Mother's family, my grandmother and great grandmother are on the Dawes Roll, the official listing of the Cherokee tribe.
    Many Rangers stationed here in the Savannah area both at Ft. Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield. They've served so many deployments to the Middle East, my heart goes out to them and their families.

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    1. Yes, I read three battalions, with separate headquarters. What a lot of young men and women.
      And Cherokee. You are in the middle of history. Sometimes I wonder how it could have been different.

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  4. I wish the gift of peace of mind to the Gold Star family. The holiday season must be difficult for them!

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  5. I love how your mind works and is always working-like following a car, reading the logo, and turning it into a great post.

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  6. I have only one WWII photo of my dad, in his aviator's hood--they didn't have helmets yet, so I guess I'd call it a hood. I have a few photos of my mom's brother in Japan. The Ingalls family homesteaded in Kansas and had to leave. They went back to Wisconsin and later moved on to Minnesota and then the Dakota Territories.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. My great blurs. I need to stop and look up everything, and sometimes don't. Thanks for the edit.

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  7. So cruel to lose a child ...
    But doubly cruel in this senseless Middle Eastern pushing and shoving that seems never ending .

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  8. my great grandmother was on the trail of tears from Georgia to Arkansas, wish I knew about that history first hand, like I mentioned another time, I never questioned my grandmother about her history and now she's gone and both my parents never told us a thing about any of our history and were ever reluctant if we questioned them; terror since the beginning of time; isn't it only man that terrorizes, is there one animal or plant that does, can't think of one.

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    1. that's my observation too. only humans torture though I guess a case could be made for cats who play with their prey before killing it.

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  9. Our countries share a similar history of white settlement and native displacement. We are all about apologies these days....fat lot of good that does anyone.

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  10. History was abominably taught when I was at school and was limited to dates, rulers and battles. I came to understand it was about how people lived (and died) late in life. I am now fascinated and am working on reducing my ignorance.

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  11. Hari om
    Joanne, this was a great post! I love history, but am also painfully aware that it is generally written by 'the victors' ... YAM xx

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  12. Interesting post, Joanne. Yes, I remember learning about the Trail of Tears in school in Tulsa.
    I smiled, thought, when I got to your mention of Ft. Benning. My husband went there for Officer Candidate School and our daughter was born there in 1970.

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  13. You have many historical nuggets here. On the prairie there were few trees. There are more now but most are not indigenous. Farmers planted trees as wind-breakers. They protected farmhouses from strong winds and snow. contour farming is still being done today. All around the area I live in you will see fields with "shelves" to help protect the fields from erosion. I too learned about the trail of tears in school. Perhaps because it is so near to here I did not know about Wounded Knee until I was an adult. I really liked this post.

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  14. I have a forbear that was a Texas Ranger. And through an aunt's marriage a man who surveyed parts of Texas. I have one of his hand written survey books...so many feet from this rock to that tree to some other landmark. I don't remember what I was taught in school about the first nations but I did set out to learn in my early 20s and was horrified. I couldn't finish Trail Of Tears. and learning about the massacres of whole encampments of women, children, and the old. Humans can be so cowardly.

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  15. This was such an interesting post, and so were the comments from others. It has inspired me to do some reading. My husband's grandmother lived in a sod house in Nebraska. Luckily a photo of her as a very little girl with her parents in front of the sod house was taken way back then. Her children and most of her grandchildren,and some of her great grandchildren have copies of that picture in their homes.

    Thanks for such an enjoyable post.

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  16. A thought-provoking post. Thanks for sharing.

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  17. Henry was a Ranger when he was in for his 3 deployments. I'm happy he's out. Take care,
    Mike

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  18. I agree those boots are at the beginning of their long journey.
    Your reading history sounds fascinating, I wish I'd read more of that sort of thing as a child, but I stuck to fiction. I was allowed into the adult section at age eight also, but though the Librarian steered me away from unsuitable books, I managed to read Catcher in the Rye back then. Didn't understand it though.

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  19. Joanne. You have found your next career! Educator. And an excellent one at that. You make the subject interesting; you entice your students to follow your lead and learn more. Thank you.

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  20. What an interesting post from such an interesting person.

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